SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara has thanked donors and community leaders for the help they have given to students.
It's the first time for this gathering since the pandemic delayed many public events, including this one.
A special luncheon was held at the Hilton Beachfront Resort.
The foundation responds throughout the year to the community needs with a priority for students, the vulnerable populations and working families. Millions of dollars are allocated to students at several levels of higher education.
Scholarships often go to students who come from families that have never been to college before.
Many have no financial help from home.
Often without the Scholarship Foundation they would not be getting a higher education.
The organization has been around for 60 years.
In 2022, $7.7-million in scholarships have been given out.
2,146 students were awarded scholarships.
The average scholarships were $1562. for undergrads at 2-year schools. $3132. for undergrads at 4-year schools. $5191. for grad students and $20,945. for medical students.
"Since 1962 scholarship foundation has awarded more than 140-million to some 60,000 Santa Barbara County students," said Scholarship Foundation Chair Matt Rowe. "We are the nation's largest community based provider of college scholarships."
Throughout the year there are many workshops to help students gain their scholarships. "Really through the aid of our counselors, we are really helping out families to understand the playing field, get access to other aid from federal, state and institutional aid in addition to the scholarships we are awarding."
Rowe said in the last few years, supporters helped the foundation get through great difficulty (during the pandemic) "and flourish."
A former incarcerated gang member, who was a recipient, spoke about the help he received to get into and through Alan Hancock college.
Arturo "Cheech" Raygoza is now at U.C. Berkley as a Sociology major.
"My father left when I was six months old. I was always told I would be just like my dad worthless and never amount to nothing. We lived in extreme poverty."
Raygoza grew up on the westside of Santa Maria and was in gangs. He said after many arrests prison was a "revolving door."
When he was released about eight years ago he was still misguided and involved in drugs.
At Hancock College he enrolled in classes to be a mechanic, a skill he knew.
He met a teacher on the first day of school who helped him through the process to find campus resources. "If she wouldn't did that, I would have quit," he said.
He is helping others through the group he started called "Beyond Incarceration, Greater Education" or BIGE. The first meeting had five members. Three Reygoza knew from jail.
Raygoza said, "what BIGE does, we help and guide and enroll formerly incarcerated students into their journey into college. Since I've been in college I haven't been back to prison, so something is working!"
He is now going into the north county jail, encouraging those inside to go to Hancock College when they get out.
A familiar face helping us through the COVID crisis is also a former recipient.
Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons told the audience of 250, "you continue to remind us that education matters."
Fitzgibbons said education helped us all understand and process the messages we learned through the COVID crisis and likely saved many lives.
She said, "they learned how to learn, they learned to be thoughtful and wise consumers of information and don't think anyone can disagree it was hard to be a wise consumer of information."
Going forward the formula has room to grow, and the student needs are always challenging in their journey to college and beyond.
Rowe said, "we want to continue awarding scholarships. Continue to elevate the lives of our local students and families and reap the rewards of education."
The foundation does not charge for managing money donated and it goes directly to the students.
At the luncheon the President and CEO of the foundation Barbara Robertson announced her retirement. A search is underway for a new leader.